Friday, April 11, 2008

100 Cupboards...random thoughts

I adored this book. In fact, as I read it, I kept thinking to myself, "I just love everything about this book." I stopped thinking that during the last two pages, however. I didn't like the epilogue. I'm not really even sure why. It's not that it changed anything about the book, or that it wasn't well-written, or that it didn't make sense. Maybe that's made too much sense. It almost felt like the beginning of a new book...the sequel that you could already tell was coming anyway. I apologize...I don't think I'm making much sense here, am I? So let's move away from this trifling little criticism and on to what was so wonderful about this book...everything else.

The writing. It's so sweet and simple. Nothing complicated, but so completely endearing. The book begins:

"Henry, Kansas, is a hot town. And a cold town. It is a town so still there are times when you can hear a fly trying to get through the window of the locked-up antique store on Main Street. Nobody remembers who owns the antique store, but if you press your face against the glass, like the fly, you'll see that whoever they are, they don't have much beyond a wide variety of wagon wheels. Yes, Henry is still town. But there have been tornadoes on Main Street. If the wind blows it's like it won't ever stop. Once it's stopped, there seems to be no hope of getting it started again.

There is a bus station in Henry, but it isn't on Main Street. It's one block north--the town fathers hadn't wanted all the additional traffic. The station lost one-third of its roof to a tornado fifteen years ago. In the same summer, a bottle rocket brought the gift of fire to its restrooms. The damage has never been repaired, but the town council makes sure that the building is painted fresh every other year, and always the color of a swimming pool. There is never graffiti. Vandals would have to drive more than twenty miles to buy the spray paint.

Every once in a long while, a bus creeps into town and eases to a stop beside the mostly roofed, bright aqua station with the charred bathrooms. Henry is always glad to see a bus. Such treats are rare."

With those first three paragraphs, I was sold. I was in love with the little town of Henry, Kansas. And it didn't take long until I was taken with the characters, too. Well, with two of the characters, in particular. (Actually, I suppose some of the characters could stand a bit more development, but I suspect we'll see that in books to come should they begin to take bigger roles.) Uncle Frank is by far my favorite. Wilson writes,

"People liked Dotty. They said she was interesting. They rarely did the same for her husband. They said Mr. Willis was thin, and they didn't just mean physically. They meant thin everywhere and every way. Dotty saw much more than thin, and she liked him. Frank Willis didn't seem to notice much of anything beyond that."

We get to see much more than "thin" as well. We come to know a quiet, thoughtful man who loves his wife and family. I really came to respect Frank, and felt a genuine fondness for him. But he's not the main character in the story. No, that would be Henry.

Henry, a twelve-year-old boy, arrives on one of those rare buses into town. He's come to stay with his Aunt Dotty, Uncle Frank, and their three daughters after his parents are kidnapped in a foreign country. Henry has always been seriously over-protected, and while he's nervous about fitting into a new family and a new town, it's obvious that he's somewhat excited about it, too.

One night, bits of plaster fall into Henry's hair from the wall of Henry's attic bedroom. On closer inspection, Henry finds two knobs poking through the plaster. And this is only the beginning. Henry begins chipping away at the plaster, and finds little doors hidden beneath. He eventually uncovers the entire wall and finds it houses 99 cupboards. Yes, I know, the title is 100 Cupboards...but if you want to find out where cupboard 100 comes in and what these cupboards contain, you'll just have to read the book. Suffice it to say, that this book is quite suitable for the Once Upon a Time challenge.

This book is labeled as being appropriate for 9-12-year-olds. I think that kids even a little younger might enjoy it. Though it does become a bit darker and scarier toward the end, and I would keep that in mind if your kiddo is easily my sweet little 7-year-old.

And thus ends this rambling jumble of thoughts that I'm passing off as a book review for my challenges (Once Upon a Time II, Initials Reading Challenge, The A-Z Reading Challenge and Numbers Reading Challenge).


Becky said...

I enjoyed this one. But I share some of your thinking, I think. It had me loving it up until a certain point. And then with the way things ended, I cooled down my affection to like. It's good, but not perfect. :)

Have you read Leepike Ridge? While not fantasy like 100 Cupboards, N.D. Wilson did a wonderful wonderful job with it. Part realistic fiction. Part adventure story. Part survival story. It has one of the best beginnings ever: In the history of the world there have been lots of onces and lots of times, and every time has had a once upon it. Most people will tell you that the once upon a time happened in a land far, far away, but it really depends on where you are. The once upon a time may have been just outside your back door. It may have been beneath your very feet. It might not have been in a land at all but deep in the sea's belly or bobbing around on its beck.

Nymeth said...

I don't think I'd heard of this book before, and it sounds so charming! Thanks for the review, Debi. And I know just what you mean about being let down by an ending that is too neat, too predictable. It sounds like the book is very much worth reading despite that, though.

Carl V. said...

That cover is amazing and takes my imagination all over the place. I'll have to look for this one. If I find it I think I'll read it and let it simmer for awhile before going off to read the epilogue. Great review, I want it!

Rhinoa said...

Sounds interesting and it is a shame you were let down by the epilogue. I hadn't heard of this before and it does sound fun for the most part. I am intrigued to read about the 100th cupboard and what they each contain.

Kim L said...

I haven't heard of this book before but it sounds very good. Even though it maybe ended on a bad note. If my Once Upon a Time challenge books get old, I'm adding this one to the list.

Chris said...

I've had this one on my list for a couple of months now and I'm about to place an order with Amazon....hmmm, I think you may have sold me ;) Maybe I'll skip the epilogue? Doubtful...Doesn't that suck though when something like that happens? This sounds really good though. I love books like this!

Anonymous said...

You got the feeling of the book across very well, I think. I don't know if I will read this book. It sounds like I will be disappointed, and there are.... so many books and so little time! Like Carl, I am totally captivated by the cover, however. It is a work of art, right there. Thanks for the good review. I'll keep my eye open for your other book reviews for this challenge.

Melody said...

Ooh, I've been looking for this book, Debi! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

DesLily said...

I've thought of this book a number of times.. I think the only reason it isn't on my wish list is that I knew it would be a series and I'm TRYING to not start NEW series where there is only ONE book out.. I don't mind waiting for book 3 or 4 but I was more than one book out when it's a series anymore.. with exception of the ones I get THINKING they aren't a series!

This one has a great premise!

Framed said...

I'm definitely adding this one to my list but maybe the others will be out by the time I get around to reading it. Great review

Stefan said...
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